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July Live Evaluation Period Preview: Class of 2018 prospects to watch

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There is good news and bad news when it comes to college basketball recruiting in the Class of 2018.

Beginning with the bad news: there just isn’t a lot of one-and-done starpower at the top of this class — especially when compared to recent star-studded offerings in the Class of 2016 and Class of 2017.

Marvin Bagley III would compete for the No. 1 spot in any year. South Carolina native and bouncy forward Zion Williamson has already amassed a humongous social-media following within this class for his ferocious above-the-rim exploits. 7-foot-3 Bol Bol, the son of former NBA center Manute Bol, has also made a huge push up the national rankings with a ridiculous spring as his combination of interior length and perimeter skill for a big man makes him a very enticing long-term prospect..

There are elite prospects like Bagley, Williamson and Bol, but the real strength of this class comes with the amount of three- and four-year players who should really help improve the quality of college basketball over the next few seasons.

Casual basketball fans might get agitated by the lack of immediate future pros within the Class of 2018. But true fans of the college game should be excited by the amount of talent that (hopefully) stays in the college ranks for a few seasons.

The depth at point guard among the Class of 2018 is particularly promising. While there are no elite stud-level lottery picks among the floor generals at the moment, about one third of the top 35 prospects in the Class of 2018 could conceivably run some point during college.

That makes for nearly a dozen top-40 level prospects who should be able to facilitate and make things better for everyone else around them.

There are going to be a lot of names to keep an eye on over these next three weeks. Here are the 15 high-level prospects to keep tabs on and five guys outside the top 50 who could make for intriguing storylines over the next few weeks.

Marvin Bagley III (Photo by Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images)

THE STUDS

Marvin Bagley III: The 6-foot-10 lefty has a chance to be a special talent. Bagley is incredibly gifted athletically to go along with a high degree of overall skill. A double-double machine who averaged 25.8 points and 14.9 rebounds this spring, Bagley is a major difference-maker on both ends of the floor as he’s capable of taking over a game. If Bagley improves his inconsistent perimeter shooting then he would be capable of scoring from all three levels.

Zion Williamson: The YouTube superstar has already racked up millions of views and has an early fan in Drake. It’s also a summer in which the 6-foot-6 Williamson has to re-prove himself a bit on the national stage after missing most of this spring with a minor knee injury. If Williamson is healthy and looks like a young Larry Johnson again, then he could push for No. 1.

Bol Bol: The 7-foot-3 Bol was the major story of the spring as he vaulted into the No. 1 discussion with his strong play in the Nike EYBL. Showing an ability to protect the rim while hitting perimeter shots, Bol has a tantalizing mixture of skills that any level of basketball would crave. How many players can swat 4.5 shots per game and still shoot 48 percent from three-point range (22-for-45)? It’s part of what makes Bol a special prospect. That combination of skills is the most valuable combination of skills in basketball today.

Cameron Reddish: There is no doubting the talent of the 6-foot-7 Reddish, as he’s one of the most gifted playmakers on the perimeter in this class. The major question comes with how Reddish plays the game, as his shot selection and overall intensity can waver from game to game. Inefficient in the EYBL this spring, Reddish shot the ball far better with USA Basketball during the FIBA U19 World Cup over the last few weeks as he looked like the most prepared Class of 2018 prospect who played with the group.

Romeo Langford: A native of Indiana who has been a top-five prospect most of his high school career, this will be an important summer for the 6-foot-4 shooting guard. Langford has the type of talent as a scorer where he can roll for 40 points, but he can just as easily vanish from a game and become too passive. The FIBA U19 World Cup also wasn’t kind for Langford as he battled through a back injury that caused him to miss two games. Langford’s health could be something to watch for this July.

Tre Jones: The younger brother of Tyus Jones also ranks as an elite point guard prospect. The 6-foot-2 Tre doesn’t have his older brother’s look-ahead vision or perimeter shooting ability, but he still led the EYBL in assists as he can run an offense with the best of them at the high school level. A more committed defender than Tyus, Tre has a winning mentality that helped Howard Pulley to one of the best records in the EYBL this spring.

Jordan Brown: Quietly putting together a really good spring on the adidas Gauntlet, the 6-foot-10 Brown averaged 21.5 points and 10.6 rebounds per game while shooting 53 percent from the field. A capable post scorer with long arms and good mobility, Brown has a unique scoring package that relies on some unorthodox shots. If Brown can be more consistent with his intensity, then he would be even more intriguing.

Moses Brown: With the Class of 2018 lacking elite big men, Brown has come on strong over the past year to become a top-ten prospect. With elite length that enables him to protect the rim and rebound at a high level, Brown is already a standout on the defensive end, but his offensive game is also opening some eyes. Equipped with good hands and a right hook, Brown has a chance to be a major pro prospect if he can improve his offensive polish at the college level.

Simi Shittu: The MVP of the NBPA Top 100 Camp, Shittu has elevated himself into a potential blueblood recruit this July. Leading Top 100 Camp in scoring and rebounding, Shittu followed up on a very strong spring as he’s been playing at a very high level over the past few months. With the Class of 2018 lacking dominant post players, Shittu’s ability to work on the interior makes him stand out as he’s able to carve space and hit the glass hard.

Immanuel Quickley: An elite point guard prospect with a different type of game than Tre Jones, the 6-foot-3 Quickley has great size and feel for the position. Having played multiple times for USA Basketball the past few summers, Quickley is poised when a defense double teams him and he’s improved a previously-shaky perimeter jumper that is now a reliable weapon. A pick-and-roll maestro, Quickley isn’t an elite athlete, but he’s good enough to make things difficult for opposing guards as a defender.

Darius Garland: The best perimeter shooter of the elite point guards, the 6-foot-0 Garland can splash in jumpers from all over the floor thanks to a deadly pull-up game. Sometimes shot selection can be an issue with Garland — which leads to his shooting percentages fluctuating at times — but he’s also capable of going on hot streaks that can really put a game away. Also no slouch when it comes to running a team, Garland doesn’t have elite size or athleticism, which makes matchups against bigger guards something to watch for.

Louis King: Bursting on the national scene this spring, the 6-foot-8 King went from a fringe five-star prospect into a no-brainer thanks to his advanced scoring acumen. Although King is prone to taking some wild shots from all over the floor, he is also one of the most gifted playmakers from the perimeter in the class as his size and skill enables him to attack smaller wings or blow by bigger forwards.

Reggie Perry: Decommitting from Arkansas just last week, the 6-foot-8 Perry was one of the highest-rated committed prospects in 2018 before opening things up. Now that he’s back on the market, expect college coaches to flock to see the double-double threat as Perry had a very good spring playing in national and international settings. Elevating himself into a five-star prospect, Perry has a a high motor and a good degree of skill and athleticism for a college power forward.

R.J. Barrett: Although not technically a 2018 prospect, yet, there are rumors circulating that Barrett could move from 2019. After dominating the FIBA U19 World Cup and helping Canada to a gold medal, it is easy to see why the 6-foot-7 Barrett would consider college a year earlier. He led the EYBL in scoring this past spring and Barrett has the athleticism and skill on the wing to be a contender for No. 1 in this class. It’ll be fascinating to see how college coaches choose to follow Barrett during July.

Shareef O’Neal: The son of Hall of Fame center Shaquille O’Neal, the Arizona commit doesn’t play like his father, but he has a lot of intriguing upside thanks to his size and athleticism. The 6-foot-9 Shareef appears more comfortable facing up than playing with his back to the basket as he still needs to add strength and some post moves before getting to Tucson. But O’Neal also moves incredibly well for a player his size and he has a lot of room to grow his his skill level.

Bol Bol (Photo by Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images)

FIVE PROSPECTS OUTSIDE THE TOP 50 TO KNOW

Robert Woodard: In his first spring playing in an elite shoe league, the 6-foot-5 Woodard struggled with his perimeter shot (24 percent from three) but he also showed an ability to contribute in other ways. For a perimeter player, Woodard is an elite rebounder, as he was sixth in the EYBL at 10.2 boards per contest while also making impact plays on defense. Woodard averaged 1.8 steals and 1.2 blocks per game as his long arms and athleticism enable him to be a monster on that end of the floor. Once Woodard figures out his offensive game, he could be a major factor.

Luther Muhammad: A tenacious defender who can also score from the perimeter, the 6-foot-3 Muhammad could be an effective “three-and-d” player at the college level. Although Muhammad is prone to some wild play and bad shots, he shot 39 percent from three-point range in EYBL play while also showing a willingness to defend anyone in the league. Muhammad’s effort and intensity can be infectious at times and he’s also a solid passer who can find the open man.

Eric Ayala: The intrigue surrounding the 6-foot-3 Ayala this summer is his looming decision about which class to enter. Because Ayala graduated high school already, he has the option to enter the Class of 2017 this fall if he would like. Ayala may also decide to do a postgraduate year if he doesn’t feel like he’s ready for college in a few months. Either way, he’s a coveted four-star prospect who will draw a lot of attention from coaches the next few weeks.

Bryan Penn-Johnson: There aren’t many proven post players in the Class of 2018, which makes the late-blooming Penn-Johnson an appealing July target. The 7-footer has never played a minute of varsity basketball, but he’s become a high-major target thanks to his shot-blocking and ability to run the floor. Hoop Seen’s Justin Young believes Penn-Johnson has some similarities to former Lakers big man Andrew Bynum back when he was in high school.

Alex Lomax: One of the toughest lead guards in the class, the Memphis native will do whatever it takes to win. The 5-foot-11 Lomax has to figure out how to be more effective as a scorer for the next level, but he does everything else you’d want from a point guard on both ends of the floor. Lomax was second in the EYBL in steals per game to go along with a solid assist-to-turnover ratio (4.1-to-1.8 this spring) in helping Team Penny to another Peach Jam

Ohio State grabs five-star 2019 point guard D.J. Carton

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Ohio State landed one of the biggest commitments so far this summer on Saturday as five-star Class of 2019 point guard D.J. Carton pledged to the Buckeyes.

The 5-foot-11 Carton burst onto the national recruiting scene this spring as he went from a relative unknown into a five-star prospect. Although Carton doesn’t play on a major shoe-company circuit he impressed national scouts and college coaches with his play during the April live evaluation period with Quad Cities Elite — the same program that produced quality college players like Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ and Montana State’s Tyler Hall.

An explosive athlete who can play above the rim, Carton showed a high amount of upside during the USA Basketball U18 tryouts in June as he competed against many of the top players in his class.

Ohio State is landing a key piece at an opportune time as they now have a lead guard of the future to help build around. Carton is only the third five-star prospect to commit from the Class of 2019 so far, as he’s the No. 17 overall prospect in the Rivals national rankings. Carton joins in-state four-star wing Alonzo Gaffney in the Buckeyes’ 2019 recruiting class as Ohio State has the makings of a potential top 10 recruiting class.

With where Ohio State was last summer, with head coach Chris Holtmann taking the job in June and the roster lacking scholarship players, the Buckeyes have had a monster turnaround in the last 14 months. Ohio State now, once again, looks like a scary team when it comes to recruiting as they should be a major factor for some elite prospects.

Alabama lands four-star wing Juwan Gary

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Alabama added a quality wing to its Class of 2019 recruiting haul on Friday as four-star Juwan Gary pledged to the Crimson Tide.

The 6-foot-5, 200-pound Gary has been a known national prospect since his freshman season as the South Carolina native is an athletic two-way wing who thrives in the open court. Although Gary still needs to polish up his jumper, he has the potential to be an impact player in the SEC, especially if Alabama gets him going in transition.

Gary joins four-star forward Diante Smith in the Crimson Tide recruiting class in 2019 as now head coach Avery Johnson and his staff can focus more of their efforts on adding to a potentially strong class. Pulling Gary out of South Carolina — especially in light of recent NCAA tournament success from in-state programs like South Carolina and Clemson — is an impressive recruiting win for Alabama.

Former UCLA guard Billy Knight was facing child molestation charges before suicide

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Former UCLA guard Billy Knight, who took his own life earlier this week, was arrested in June for sexually abusing a nine-year old girl, according to court documents that were obtained by The Mercury News.

The alleged assaults occurred in April of 2017 and Knight was reportedly arrested in Arizona in June. He was being charged with two counts of sexual conduct with a minor, two counts of sexual abuse, and two counts of molestation of a child.

Knight posted a video to YouTube prior to his death saying that he had lived a life of “sin”.

Jalek Felton signs pro contract in Europe

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Jalek Felton’s college basketball career is over.

The former North Carolina point guard has signed a pro contract with Olimpija Lubiana, a club team in Slovenia, they announced.

“I’m happy to join a club like Petrol Olimpija,” Felton said in a statement. “This is a club with a rich tradition, where many NBA players have begun their careers. For me, this is a big step. I know that this will be a great challenge for me and I am ready to go there and work. My agent told me that Olimpija will play in various competitions and that makes me all the more pleased. Playing in such competitions with Olympia in Europe will prepare me for playing in the NBA. The city looks nice and I heard that basketball there is a religion, so this will be an interesting experience.”

Felton, the nephew of former UNC guard Ray Felton, was a five-star prospect that played in 22 games as a freshman with the Tar Heels. But he was suspended from the program in January and, in March, withdrew from school.

He averaged just 2.9 points in his one season in Chapel Hill.

Creighton lands local 2019 commit

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Omaha isn’t exactly thought of as a high school basketball hot bed, but Creighton has had success mining its hometown for talent in recent years, most notably in recent NBA draft picks Justin Patton and Khyri Thomas.

The Bluejays went back to the well Thursday by securing the commitment of Shereef Mitchell, a 6-foot guard from local Burke High School, he announced via social media.

“Being a kid from Omaha you dream of playing for Creighton and in front of the hotown fans,” Mitchell wrote. “That is something I want to do  and I don’t want to turn that opportunity down.

“I can’t wait to play in front of my family, friends and the best fans in the world!”

Burke was offered by Greg McDermott’s staff just earlier this week, adding to a list of offers that included Bradley, Loyola Chicago and South Dakota State.

Burke recently graduated from his Omaha high school, but will reclassify to 2019 after spending a season with Sunrise Christian in Wichita, Kan.

“I really feel like I will be a way better player than what I am right now after my year at Sunrise,” Mitchell told the Omaha World-Herald. “I think I could have a shot at being an impact player right away and possibly starting after a year there.”

Burke averaged 24.6 points and 3.8 assists per game as a high school senior, earning state player of the year honors in the process. He’s hoping to extend the line of Omaha products to thrive at Creighton.

“I’m a kid from Omaha, and getting an offer from Creighton is something kids dream of and it would be hard for me to pass up,” Mitchell told the World-Herald. “Seeing players like Khyri Thomas and Justin Patton, two kids from (Omaha public schools) that are in the NBA, it gives you hope that you can do the same thing.”